How products are adapting to our changing attention span

Daniel Hurst
3 min readOct 10, 2021


Studies have shown our average attention span has reduced from 12 seconds to 8 seconds, and our shrinking attention span is said to be largely because of technology. Having multiple screens and devices that constantly give us notifications across multiple applications (Social media, chats, email, work, productivity apps, content streamers) modern devices enable us to switch between what information we are looking at with ease, meaning we now want information quickly and with obstruction.

Looking at how products have tried to use users’ attention to their advantage, and what it means for other industries that are having to adapt. We can see trends and directions products are trying to take.

Apps like TikTok enable users to quickly engage with content, if the user likes watching “quick DIY hacks” it will show similar by a variety of different creators, occasionally it will show content that might be outside of the users interest bubble and it may work for them but if something doesn’t connect with the interests of the user the algorithm will adapt to make sure to only show more relevant content to the user keeping them on the application as long as possible.

All this enables a user to keep active and engaged with the product. Users are watching a maximum of a 3 minute video (Current limitation), with an average active viewing session of 10+ minute, these short videos are quick and snappy so a user doesn’t get a chance to lose interest, and if they do they go straight to the next video.

Products such as news sites work in 2 ways: 1.Showing quick stories/highlights, 2.Full articles, these cater to different user types such as someone who wants to watch the full F1 race or just highlights, or maybe the bullet points from a government press conference. Both enable a user to get to the action or key points quicker.

VICE took this knowledge along with changing users habits and created stories to keep up with the new generation of users, creating short news stories enabling users to share and comment to feel a part of a community, allowing users to feel active rather than just passive helps keep engagement & usage of the product high.

Is this necessity of wanting information quickly a generational trait now, being brought up around technology has made us expect knowledge/information in a succinct way. Search engines enable us to just type what we want to know and jump around a few links and we have our answer or even quick if the google suggestion has our answer.

Looking at how the new generation are learning we are now having to adapt how we teach, even sectioning off lessons into smaller chunks each in a different area of subject matter to keep the students engaged and active in their studies. We no longer enjoy just learning in a passive way but quicker active sessions. Now everyone is different in the way they learn, there is no one size fits all, but there is a clear trend in the direction we are heading, so classrooms are having to begin to cater to this.

Learning applications like Duolingo use lessons which are quick and engaging with the use of gamification to help users learn and retain information while keeping their attention. Quick lesson feedback together with gaining a score helps keep a user engaged to learn as best as possible.

Digital products have different ways of using attention span to their advantage, these can be stories (Which every large social application seems to have tried in some way), highlights, gamification, quick snippets, sharing/chats. Each feature’s goal is to try and keep the user in the product as long as possible and although this can be seen as a negative, there are also many positives to these products.

I haven’t managed to do extensive research, I hope to create and post more in the future, while diving deeper into one specific area.


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